There’s something about drones. Simultaneously cute, creepy and intriguing, Parrot’s new toys, dubbed MiniDrones, are coming to Canada this August, and we couldn’t be more delighted.
The company announced the new products at CES in January, offering two flavours of tech toy heaven: the quadcopter Rolling Spider, and the aptly-named Jumping Sumo. The former, available for $119, is a small, quiet thing, capable of rolling around and doing tricks but, unlike an ostrich, can fly when ordered by its smartphone or tablet app. The latter is my personal favourite, an agile, fast roller on a comparatively huge wheelbase, coming in at $179.
Parrot has been making “fun” accessories for over 20 years, and has sold 700,000 of the larger AR.Drone 2.0 model since its debut in 2010. The company, which specializes in OEM car dashboards, headphones and other products, has carved a niche in the consumer drone market, but the size and cost of the AR.Drone likely kept it away from many Christmas trees over the past few years. These MiniDrones aim to fix that omission.
The Rolling Spider uses Bluetooth to communicate with an iOS, Android or, later this year, Windows Phone, while the Jumping Sumo requires a bit more bandwidth and uses WiFi Direct. Both products have small cameras to broadcast live video, or take low-resolution photos.
The Rolling Spider’s battery, a small removable cell, promises eight minutes of uptime before needing an hour to recharge. This sounds light, but makes sense when you see just how small and light the product is. Not only is the copter extremely versatile, able to roll, fly and pivot on command, but its 3-axis gyro ensures that it always stays upright and, hopefully, land on its feet. For safety, the copter’s sensors will turn off the rotors when it senses a hand nearby.
The Jumping Sumo is quite a bit more robust, with a denser plastic body and thicker set of adjustable wheels that can jump, roll and pivot on command. The one-touch commands, such as turning 90-degrees or 180-degrees in less than a second, are accompanied by three piloting modes, each with their own unique traits.
The high tech toy market has exploded in recent years, and companies like Parrot and Orbotix, which we talked to last year about their Sphero 2.0 product, are leading the way.
The MiniDrones, when released in August, will be accompanied by Parrot’s new FreeFlight 3 app for iOS and Android, bringing a new interface for the smartphone and tablet-controlled toys. Using macros and a customizable path chart, users will be able to set a course for the Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider to perform tricks and complete obstacle courses.
The Rolling Spider will retail for $119.99, while the Jumping Sumo will cost $179.99 when they debut later this summer.